Russian military kills unarmed Ukrainian priest


Eastern Europe


A volunteer looks at a motorist as he takes position at a checkpoint in a district in Kyiv. Photo AFP, Fadel Senna

A Ukrainian priest was shot dead by Russian forces at the beginning of the invasion. According to eyewitnesses, the man did not form a threat but was shot in cold blood.

Rostylslav Dudarenko, a priest from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the village of Yasnohorodka 40 km west of Kyiv, was manning a checkpoint on March 5th to check the vehicles that passed. As in many places in Ukraine, the checkpoint was mostly manned by civilians without any formal military training. But like all chaplains, Dudarenko was also there to offer spiritual support to the group. He was dressed in civilian clothes.

Dudarenko. Photo Facebook

When the Russian forces approached Yasnohorodka with armoured vehicles, the villagers left the roadblock and hid in a forest nearby. Some of the villagers at the roadblock were armed and had military training. However, they were not part of military forces. That writes the Swedish Christian daily Dagen.

After the Russians approached the checkpoint, they began "shooting in all directions", eyewitness Yukhym told the British broadcaster BBC. "When they realised we were hiding in the grass, they ran off the road to run us over with their tanks." He says that the tanks had returned to the road when Dudarenko decided to leave. "I saw Rostyslav raise the cross over his head, get up from his hiding place, shout something and walk towards them. Maybe he wanted to stop them. I tried to call him."

Yukhym says shots were then fired in the priest's direction and, from his point of view at the time, appeared to be aimed directly at Dudarenko. "And that was it. He took just a couple of steps and fell."

Yukhym, who was also injured in the attack, believes they would all have been killed had the Ukrainian armed forces not arrived at that time to push back the Russian forces.

As a priest, Dudarenko refused to bear arms. "He was a friendly and optimistic person. I think that was why he tried to stop the Russian soldiers", says Yukhym. Other villagers describe the pastor as a helpful person who often went around the village to help older parishioners get to the mass. According to the priest's mother, Nadiia, her son wanted to protect everyone in the village. "I tried to persuade him to withdraw from this post but did not succeed."

War crime

Ukrainian officials have logged this incident as a war crime on a special website of state institutions. That reports the Norwegian Christian daily Vårt Land. The logging of these cases is important, says the Ukrainian public prosecutor Iryna Venediktova. Venice dictates that they have logged several thousand cases that they believe are war crimes committed by Russian soldiers. However, they do not have enough investigators to map all the war crimes themselves.

Therefore, they have created a website, warcrimes.gov.ua. She adds that it is important for them that the crimes that are logged are not only approved by Ukrainian courts but by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.



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